It’s spring break back in Durham and I’m in the Duke Kunshan University (DKU) library in China, waiting for two of my best friends to get out of their decision models class.

As I walked around DKU’s campus this morning, I thought back to where I was this time last year. I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, working a nine to five job and was mentally committed to a different university’s graduate program. I’m not sure what it was about Duke, but I think there was a part of me that was a little intimidated by the caliber of the school’s name. Regardless of what it was, at this time last year I didn’t think I was going to Duke.

As I finished a lap around the DKU campus pond, I reflected on the lifelong friendships I’ve made this year and all of the experiences this school has made available for me. All I could think was “Thank goodness I go to Duke, thank goodness I went to Blue Devil Experience.”

In all honesty, I was forced to spend the weekend at Blue Devil Experience. The goal of the campus event is to help admitted students get a better feel for the program, and it was my dad who convinced me to go. Like I mentioned, I was mentally committed to a different program and making this trip out to Durham seemed (at the time) unnecessary. However, from the moment I got there I knew Duke was a special place—different than I’d imagined.

MMS Blue Devil Experience was a huge success! Thanks to all of our admitted students who joined us. #MMS2017 #FuquaBound #TeamFuqua

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Our agenda included activities ranging from a mock class with the legendary Professor Scott Dyreng, a campus tour, an improv class, and even a Duke baseball game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. However, it wasn’t the agenda that made me change my mind (although it definitely helped). It was the people.

We had the opportunity to speak to so many different students over the course of the weekend. Each student I spoke to had so much to share, but the overarching theme across all conversations was a passion for the friendships they had made throughout the year. What impressed me the most about these friendships was how far they reached beyond the social aspect and into the academic realm.

I had expressed my concern about my lack of business background to a current student, and without skipping a beat, he set all my worries at ease explaining that this was the beauty of the Duke MMS program. “Unlike other master in management programs,” he explained, “Fuqua allows students with business backgrounds to apply. This way, students are truly able to support each other through their varying areas of expertise. And they do.”

Throughout my time at Fuqua, I have found this to be more than true. Students will go out of their way to arrange review sessions for anyone who feels uncomfortable with the material. In this program, I have felt nothing but encouragement and support from my classmates. Your friends want to see you succeed, and they make sure that you do.

A group of students performing an improv exercise during Blue Devil Experience
The improv session led by current students

Not only was I impressed by the current students, but also the prospective students who were visiting that weekend. The first person I met was a girl from Florida named Phoebe, who was admitted to the MMS: DKU program. We became fast friends. I stuck by her side that weekend as we explored the ins and outs of what it meant to be a student at Fuqua. Together we toured the halls with the flags, struggled uncomfortably through an improv class, and even made it to a memorable night at Shooters (the very loud, very undergrad-heavy bar near campus).

Little did I know that these few days of the Blue Devil Experience were incredibly telling of the year to come: immersing myself amongst all the diversity Fuqua has to offer, pushing myself far out of my comfort zone, and making memories with great friends along the way.

As you know by now, I decided to go to Duke. Within an hour of leaving Blue Devil Experience I had signed a yearlong lease at an apartment complex and was deeply immersed in a group text with all of my new Fuqua friends. I felt an excitement about the year to come that I hadn’t experienced when I thought I was attending that other program. “This is gonna be fun,” I thought. And that, my friends, was the understatement of a lifetime.

As I said before, I am writing this on my spring break, from the DKU library, waiting for two of my best friends to get out of class. As students in the MMS: DKU program they left Durham in January to complete their studies in China, and I’m taking advantage of time off from school to visit them. One of those friends is Phoebe. So when I say that Blue Devil Experience changed my life, I mean it in the most sincere way possible. It encouraged me to make one of the biggest and best decisions, and it allowed me to end up in places like Kunshan, China, with some incredible friends to experience it with.

Needless to say, if you have the opportunity to attend this event and truly see Duke University and The Fuqua School of Business for yourself, I highly recommend that you do. It may just change your life, like it did mine.

Dana and her friend and classmate Phoebe hugging in the airport. They met at Blue Devil Experience
Phoebe and I, reunited at the Shanghai airport during spring break